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HENRY SOI HER AN <V CO., 

Booksellers and Bookbinders, | 

S7 Piccadilly. W. 



ST. GEORGE FOR 
MERRIE ENGLAND 




'■ 




ST. GEORGE 

French, X\'. century. South Kensington Museur 



Frontispiece 



ST. GEORGE FOR 
MERRIE ENGLAND 



by 



MARGARET H. BULLEY 



WITH FIFTY-SIX FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS 




From an early Norman Tombstone at Conisborough 



LONDON : GEORGE ALLEN & SONS 

156, CHARING CROSS ROAD 

1908 

[All rights reserved] 



Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson 6° Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh 



URL 



TO 
MY FATHER AND MOTHER 



" Why should we talk of Arthur and his knights 

Knowing how many men have performed fights ! 

Or why should we speak of Sir Lancelot du Lake 

Or Sir Tristran de Leon that fought for Ladies' sake ! 

Read old stories over and there you will see 

How Saint George, Saint George, he made the dragon flee. 

Saint George he was for England, Saint Denis was for France, 

Sing Honi Son Qui Mal y Pense." 

— Old English Ballad, 1600 (?) 



VII 



LIST OF CHIEF BOOKS AND PAPERS CONSULTED 

Dictionary of Christian Biography. Article by the Rev. G. T. Stokes. 

Lives of the Saints. The Rev. S. Baring-Gould. 1 

Curious Myths of the Middle Ages. Rev. S. Baring-Gould. 

The Martyrdoms and Miracles of St. George. Oriental Text series, No. i. 

Dr. E. Wallis Budge. 
Journal of the Archaeological Institute. 1900. Article by Mr. Lewis Andre". 
List of Buildings with Mural Decorations. Keyser. 
Fors Clavigera. J. Ruskin. 
The Life of St. George. Dr. Clapton. 
Norfolk Archaeology. Vol. III. 
Encyclopedic Theologique. 

Horus et Saint Georges. M. Clermont Ganeau. 
Zur Georgslegende. M. Huber. 
History of Reading. Coates. 
The Coventry Pageants. Ed. Sharp. 
St. George of Cappadocia. Peter Heleyn. 1631. 
The Most Famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom. Richard 

Johnstone. 1601. 
The Order of the Ceremonies used at Windsor, 167 1. 
Records of the Borough of Leicester, 1327-1509. 
Sarum Missal. 

Fabyan's Chronicle. Ed. Ellis. 

History of the World, 1617. Sir W. Raleigh. Ed. of 1676. 
Sir Bevys of Hampton. 
Archaeologia. Several volumes. 
Publications of the Camden Society. 
Publications of the Surtees Society. 
Publications of the Chetham Society. 
Publications of the Percy Society. 



Vlll 



St. George for Merrie England 



THE GOLDEN LEGEND 

Among all the stories of St. George there is no greater favourite than 
that of the fight with the dragon. Artists have painted and carved it 
for our delight, musicians and poets have celebrated it in song and verse, 
and it has duly taken its place in the literature of the world. 

In olden times, however, this charming fairy story was implicitly 
believed by the people. The history of St. George was so shrouded in 
mystery that, perhaps not unnaturally, Romance stepped in, and during 
the course of centuries legends grew up around the Saint's name which 
were more symbolic than accurate. The earliest form of the full- 
grown legend is found in the celebrated " Legenda Aurea," which was 
written by Jaques de Voragine, Archbishop of Geneva, who lived from 
1236 to 1298 a.d. It was translated into English by Caxton, and it is 
this version that shall first be quoted from and described, as it has 
always been the most popular. This is how the story runs. 

Long ago there was a city in Libya called Selene. Now the 
people of that city were in great trouble because a terrible dragon, 
which was ravaging the country round, had made its lair in a marshy 
swamp near the city walls. Its poisonous breath reached the people, 
who had all fled for safety into the city, and pestilence began to spread 
rapidly among them. 

To make it keep farther away, they gave it a daily offering of 
two sheep, and for some time all went well ; but the day came when the 
last sheep had been devoured. Long and anxiously the people dis- 
cussed what was to be done. The dragon's breath was fast spreading 
sickness among them, and steps had to be taken at once to appease its 

9 



St. George for Merrie England 

wrath. At last they reluctantly decided that lots must be drawn 
among the children under fifteen, and that each day one must be 
sacrificed to the cruel monster. 

Then came a day when the lot fell on the King's little daughter, 
the Princess Cleodolinda. 

With tears and prayers he implored that her life should be spared. 
" For the love of Goddes take golde and sylver and alle that I have, 
and lete me have my doughter." But the people only answered that 
what was just for them was just for him, and that they could only 
allow him eight days in which to mourn and prepare his daughter. 
" Your doughter shal be gyven or ellys we shal brenne you and your 
hous." Thus came their stern answer. 

So the eight days passed. 

" Thenne dyd the Kyng doo araye his doughter lyke as she shold 
be wedded and embraced hyr, kyssed hir, and gave hir his benedyccion, 
and after ledde hyr to the place where the dragon was." 

Now as she wandered along, the tears running down her cheeks, 
who should ride by but a tribune of the Roman army, one George of 
Cappadocia, a valiant knight and true. 

Seeing her tears, he stopped his beautiful white horse, and asked her 
the cause of her distress ; but she only answered, " Goo ye your waye 
tayre younge man that ye perysshe not also." When he still questioned 
her, and would not go until she answered him, she then described the sad 
fate that had befallen her. " Fayre doughter doubte ye nothing herof, 
for I shal helpe the in the name of Jhesu Cryste," answered George of 
Cappadocia. 

Hardly had he spoken when the dragon crawled out of the marsh, 
and came rushing towards them. 

The tribune wheeled round his horse, and, commending himself to 
God, charged again and again at the monster, finally transfixing it with 
his spear. 

Then he turned to the poor little Princess, who with trembling and 
tears had watched the fight. " Delyver to me your gyrdel, and bynde 
hit about the necke of the dragon, and be not aferd." This she did, 
and we are told, " when she had doon soo, the dragon folowed hyr as 
it had been a meke beest and debonayr." 

10 



The Golden Legend 



So they came back together to the city ; but when the people saw 
the dragon they began to fly to the hills, and would not come back 
until St. George had promised to cut off" its head before them all in the 
market-place. So this was done, and four carts drawn by oxen bore 
away the hated beast. Such was the joy of the people in the victory 
of St. George and his faith, that the King, Queen, and Princess, and 
twenty thousand of their subjects, not counting women and children, 
were baptized and became Christians. The King would have given his 
daughter and half his kingdom to St. George, but he only answered 
that he must go on his way, and begging " that he shold have charge 
of the churches, that he shold honaire the preestes and here theyr 
serruyce dylygently, and that he shold have pyte on the poure peple," 
he kissed the King and departed. 

So over the hills and far away he went, and not very long 
after that time the Emperor Diocletian, under whom St. George was 
serving, began to persecute the Christians. St. George openly defied 
the Emperor, and publicly proclaimed himself to be a Christian, where- 
upon Dacian the Governor had him thrown into prison, and tortured 
many times, saying, " I shal deye for angrey if I may not surmounte 
& ouercome thys man ; " but from all his wounds he was miraculously 
healed and saved. Finally his head was cut off, and so died St. George, 
a martyr to his faith. 

This, then, is the earliest version of the full-grown legend. There 
are also two other early records ; one the Breviary Service for St. 
George's Day, as it existed before its revision by Pope Clement VII., 
and secondly, an old Norman tombstone at Conisborough in Yorkshire, 
in which the figure of the Princess is first met with in art. The 
hog-backed shape of the stone is generally considered to show 
Scandinavian influence, but the kite-shaped shield and conical caps 
are undoubtedly Norman, and it has been dated as early twelfth 
century work. This Conisborough stone has the interesting detail 
that the Princess is already in the dragon's clutches : an abbot is 
blessing the exploit of the Saint. 



II 



St. George for Merrie England 



THE "ACTS" 

The latter part of the story of St. George, as we read it in the 
Golden Legend, was evidently founded on the early Greek and Coptic 
Acts. These Acts professed to give the true history of the Saint ; 
but as every fresh version that appeared was wilfully corrupted by 
its transcribers, even as early as the year 494 a.d., they were pro- 
nounced by Pope Gelasius to be entirely fabulous. On the other hand, 
Theodosius, Bishop of Jerusalem, and Theodotus, Bishop of Ancyra, 
both used and accepted the earliest version, which was written by 
Pasikrates, the servant of St. George. We know that a Syriac version 
of this work existed in the sixth century, and it has much in common 
with the Coptic texts. The Ethiopian Acts (which numbered eighty 
miracles), and also the Latin and Arabic, were of a later date. 

The Coptic texts have been edited and translated by Dr. E. Wallis 
Budge from several old manuscripts. Two of the most important are 
by Pasikrates, who has been already mentioned, and Theodosius, 
Bishop of Jerusalem ; and it is on some such accounts as these that the 
Greek texts by Simeon Malaphrastes, Andrew of Crete, and Gregory 
of Cyprus are based. 

They tell us that George was a native of Melitene in the east of 
Cappadocia. His grandfather was John, chief governor of Cappadocia, 
and his parents were Anastasius, governor of Melitene, and Kira 
Theognosta, who was daughter of Dionysius, the Count of Lydda 
Diospolis. All of them were Christians. George, wishing for advance- 
ment, set out for Tyre, where he intended to ask the Emperor 
Diocletian to make him a count. On his arrival, however, he was 
so disgusted with the idolatry that prevailed in the country that, 
giving away his money and jewels, and dismissing his servants, he 
demanded an audience with Dadiamus the governor, and proclaimed 
himself a Christian. 

The result was that Dadiamus ordered him to be tortured in every 
conceivable way ; but after every fresh torture he was miraculously 
healed by Christ. The Governor then invited any one who had the 
power, to destroy him. Athanasius, a magician, came forward, and 

12 



The "Acts 



5? 



gave him poisoned drinks, pronouncing the names of powerful demons 
as he did so ; but these failed to harm George, and Athanasius himself 
was converted to Christianity. George was then tortured again and again, 
but every time he was miraculously restored by Christ and His angels. 
He then wrought four miracles. He raised to life a dead ox belonging 
to a poor widow called Cholastike, and later some men and women who 
had been buried for more than two hundred years ; he caused the 
pillar of a widow's house to take root and become a tree ; and lastly, he 
made the lame and blind son of a widow both walk and see. 

Dadiamus then had him burnt, but the winds brought back his 
ashes, and he lived again. He was then tortured and thrown into 
prison, but Christ appeared and healed his wounds. Then came 
seven years of tortures, but when these had no effect Dadiamus offered 
to kiss him and make peace, but St. George refused. He then con- 
verted Alexandra the Queen. The following day he was ordered to 
bring sacrifices to Apollo, whereupon he commanded the widow's son 
whom he had healed to go into the temple and bid the idol to come 
down. When the devil who inhabited the idol heard the command he 
leapt from the pedestal, and George struck the ground, which opened 
and swallowed him. When he was again ordered to pray to false gods, 
he asked for help from heaven, and fire and thunder came down and 
destroyed the temple. Then again came tortures, and when he again 
recovered from them, seventy governors, including Dadiamus, signed his 
death warrant, whereupon George prayed to heaven, and they were all 
consumed by fire when at meat. 

He was finally beheaded at Pharmuthi, and his three servants took 
his body and laid it outside the city, whence it was taken to Joppa and 
then to Lydda. His brother Andrew started to build a shrine over 
the place where the Saint's house stood, in which to place the body, 
but became discouraged because of the expense, whereupon George 
appeared in a vision and showed him a spot where he had hidden 
money during his lifetime. 

This is a summary of the Coptic texts, which, according to Dr. 
Wallis Budge, must have been known and read in the early part of the 
sixth century. Dr. Budge suggests that the story of St. George 
overcoming the hated dragon had its origin in the Saint's defeat of the 

13 



St. George for Merrie England 

wicked governor Dadiamus, and that Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian, 
who suffered martyrdom, is the original of the Princess Cleodolinda. 
As far as other testimony goes, we can safely identify Dadiamus, the 
"great governor of the Persians," with Galerius Valerius Maximianus, 
who reigned jointly with Diocletian and was noted for his extraordinary 
cruelty. It is also known that Diocletian published two edicts at 
Nicomedia ; one against the property of Christians, and one against 
their lives, and this exactly agrees with the statement in the Coptic 
texts. 

These Acts, however, were not the only versions of this many-sided 
legend. Another insists that before St. George fought his famous 
fight with the dragon he had been killed by the Gauls, and that the 
Virgin herself had raised him again to life. This is why he was so 
often called her knight or champion, and painted kneeling by her side. 
Again we hear that he accepted the King's offer, and married the 
Princess, and that they lived happily ever after. Also that he fought 
with the Moors, captured their king, and reigned in his place. Then 
we are told that Sabra, or Aja, was the real name of the Princess, or 
else Elya, the name she is known by in the Scandinavian version of 
the legend. Also, needless to remark, many and various were the 
places that claimed to be the scene of St. George's birth, death, and fight 
with the dragon. 



THE TRUE ST. GEORGE 

Of the true history of St. George very little is known. When 
we turn to the few accurate and early accounts which have come down 
to us, we find that there are two claimants to the title. According to 
the generally accepted version, St. George was born at Lydda about 
the year 270 a.d., and was martyred at Nicomedia in 303. In the 
writings of Eusebius, a contemporary of St. George, who was Bishop of 
Constantinople in the year 338, the following entry is found (I quote 
the translation given by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould) : — 

" Immediately on the promulgation of the edict (of Diocletian) 
a certain man of no mean origin, but highly esteemed for his temporal 



The True St. George 

dignities, as soon as the decree was published against the churches in 
Nicomedia, stimulated by a divine zeal and excited by an ardent faith, 
took it as it was openly placed and posted up for public inspection, 
and tore it to shreds as a most profane and wicked act. This, too, 
was done when the two Cassars were in the city, the first of whom was 
the eldest and chief of all, and the other held fourth grade of the 
imperial dignity after him. But this man, as the first that was dis- 
tinguished there in this manner, after enduring what was likely to 
follow an act so daring, preserved his mind, calm and serene until the 
moment when his spirit fled." This nameless martyr has been generally 
supposed to be St. George. 

The second claimant is the "Holy George" mentioned in the 
following entry in the " Chronicon Pascali," an historical document 
which was compiled by three people, the first of whom carried it 
down to the year a.d. 354, the second to 629, and the third to 1042. 
The sentence runs: "In the year 255 of the ascension of our Lord a 
persecution of the Christians took place and many suffered martyrdom, 
among whom also the Holy George was martyred." l 

This mention then of a " Holy George " may be all we actually 
know of our Patron Saint. There are also two other documents 
which, though not of such early dates as the two previously men- 
tioned, are still interesting as possibly throwing further light on this 
perplexing subject. The first is a Syriac Martyrologium (published by 
Assemani in Syriac), in which there is no record of the actual name 
of St. George, but on the 24th of April, one day after the recognised 
date of the martyrdom, there is a note which reads, "April 24th. 
Anthimus . . . and five other confessors" (confessor meant "witness 
of faith " when used in this sense). There is a space after the name 
of "Anthimus" which might very possibly have held the missing 
name of George. As a further clue, there is an old Byzantine 
chronicle by a writer of the tenth century, Georgius Cedrenus, where 
he gives a brief account of this very persecution, and mentions the 
name of George as a victim of it. 

1 Mr. Baring-Gould, whose translation I again quote, discusses the date at length. 
See " Lives of the Saints," vol. iv. p. 308. 

15 



St. George for Merrie England 

The second is the Martyrologium Rieronymianum, a manuscript 
in the Berne Museum, which was written in the eighth or ninth 
century. In it the name of George is mentioned three times ; on 
April 23rd, 24th, and 25th, as representing the days of his passion 
and the day of his feast. Duchesne considers that this manuscript 
represents an older compilation than the Syriac. 

Then again, in recent years, a very important and interesting 
discovery has been made. Burckhardt when travelling in Syria found 
two early churches, one in Ezra, one in Shaka, each of which had 
old Greek dedications inscribed to St. George. Mr. Hogg has dis- 
cussed them at great length in the " Transactions of the Royal 
Literary Society," and by most acute argument shows that both are 
very early dedications, and one must have been made in the year 346 
— that is, within fifty years of St. George's death. 

This becomes very important testimony when we turn to the 
famous charge made against St. George by Dr. Reynolds of Norwich, 
and later again by the historian Gibbon, who seemed to delight in 
confusing him with that other George of Cappadocia, the Arian 
of infamous repute, who was Bishop of Alexandria until the year 
361 A.D. 



THE FALSE ST. GEORGE 

Ammianus Marcellinus, a contemporary authority, tells us that 
this George, a man of very humble parentage, was born in a fuller's 
mill at Epiphania in Cilicia, and made a living by selling bacon to 
the army at Constantinople. When it was discovered that his great 
profits were made by no honest means, he fled to Cappadocia, and 
there adopted the profession of Arianism, which was in favour at 
court at that time. His quick wits, and readiness to aid others in 
schemes perhaps none too honest, soon made him popular among a 
certain set. He collected a large library, won a reputation as a 
savant, and was finally chosen as archbishop and raised to the throne 
of Athanasius. His reign was one of tyranny and oppression. He 
persecuted Pagans and Christians alike, acquired the monopoly of 

16 



'The False St. George 

nitre, salt, paper, and even funerals, and half ruined the Alexandrian 
merchants. The time came when the people could bear it no longer. 
They had the tyrant thrown into prison, and there he remained until, 
after twenty-four days, the heathen multitude forced the doors and, 
after tearing his body to pieces, flung it into the sea. 

This, then, is the man that Gibbon says " has been transformed 
into the renowned St. George of England, the patron of arms, of 
chivalry, and of the Garter." He tells us that the rival of Athanasius 
was dear and sacred to the Arians, and that his meritorious death 
finally obliterated the memory of his life. In after years his partisans, 
taking advantage of the fact that both Saint and bishop were Georges 
of Cappadocia, inserted into the current Acts the name of George the 
Arian and other matter concerning his life, and in this way the 
slander spread. As a conclusive proof against this slander we need 
only quote the discovery of Burckhardt which shows that of the two 
churches previously alluded to, one was dedicated to St. George in 
the year 346 — that is, during the lifetime of George the Arian, who 
died in 362. If further evidence were necessary, we have the 
Chronicle of Hesychius Milesius, written in the year 518 a.d., in 
which we read that Constantine the Great dedicated a church in 
Constantinople to St. George the Martyr, about the year 330 a.d. 
This again was during the lifetime of the Arian George. 

It is extraordinary how this theory can ever have gained ground. 
The Coptic Acts were known and read early in the fifth century, and 
they contain no allusion to the Arian. From the earliest times there 
has always been the record of the " Holy George," and it is impossible 
that the worship of the Saint, which dated from his martyrdom, should 
have been offered to any one so infamous as George the Arian. 
Among other early records of St. George, we have the decree of 
Pope Gelasius in 494 a.d., which has already been alluded to; the 
Book of Martyrs of St. Gregory of Tours in the sixth century, which 
mentions him ; the beautiful poem of Venantius Fortunatus, written 
in his honour in the year 500 a.d., and the dedication of the Velabro 
church in Rome by Leo II. in the year 682 a.d. The church built 
over the tomb of St. George at Lydda (which existed, until recent 
years, in a ruinous state) has, from the earliest times, been called the 

17 B 



St. George for Merrie England 

work of Constantine. Also, when, at the end of the sixth century, 
the Bagratides ascended the throne of Georgia, they took for their 
arms, as well as other Christian subjects, that of St. George killing 
the dragon. 

There can be no doubt, after these early proofs and acknow- 
ledgments, that George the Martyr lived and died, and we can only 
agree with Fuller, who in 1634 wrote naively " that it is impossible 
that our English nation, amongst so many saints that were, would 
choose one that was not to be their patrone, especially seeing the 
world in their age had rather a glut than a famine of saints." 



WRITERS ON ST. GEORGE 

To denounce St. George, or to confuse him with other persons, 
has always had a strange fascination for men. Calvin announced 
that he did not believe in his existence. A hundred years later Dr. 
Reynolds of Norwich wrote to the same effect, and Dr. Pettingal 
and Mr. Byrom followed suit in 1753. Among several books and 
papers written in defence of the Saint, Peter Heleyn's book, published 
in 1633, is perhaps the most interesting and amusing. It is called 
"The History of that most famous Saint and Soldier of Christ Isus, 
St. George of Cappadocia," and it undertook " to cleere the history 
of St. George from all further questions." 

It begins with a little dissertation on the folly of those who 
" in this more neat and curious age, do peevishly (to say no worse) 
reject those ancient stories which are commended to us in the best 
and gravest authors. I say not this to blunt the edge of any vertuous 
endeauors," the author continues, " not so — only I sayd it a little 
to take doune, if possible, that height of selfe-conceit and stomacke 
wherewith too many of us doe affront those worthies of the former 
dayes." He then proceeds to tell the story of the Saint, and it is 
amusing to see how, in his heart of hearts, even though evidently 
a little ashamed of his credulity, he still has an inclination to believe 
in the fight with the dragon. 

" Strabo," he savs, " relates it out of Possidonius that a dead 

18 



Workers on St. George 

serpent was once found in Syria of that wondrous bignesse that two 
horsemen standing on each side of it could not see each other. And 
our own chronicles, to go no further, make mention somewhere of 
a dragon of almost incredible greatnesse found at Hooke-Norton, 
not faire from Oxen, besides what Hoveden hath reported ' de serpen- 
tibus in Sussevia visis magna cum admiratione ' of serpents seen in 
Sussex, to the great astonishment of the people. Such creatures 
there are and have beene in being in most places ; so in Africa 
especially there where Saint George is said to have killed a dragon 
... an African or Lybian dragon, for so is reported in the Legend. 
So," as he gravely sums up, " why might not George, a soldier both of 
great magnanimity and discretion, God's love and goodnesse concurring 
with him in the act, bee said to kill a Dragon, a serpentine creature 
of great bulke and danger." 

This theory is to a certain extent supported by modern writers on 
St. George, who suggest that the fight with the dragon may not have 
been a symbol alone, but an actual combat with a crocodile or some such 
creature. 

Peter Heleyn is very angry with all authors of false versions of 
the story, and has scant pity for Richard Johnstone, who wrote " The 
Famous Historie of the Seven Champions of Christendome," in which 
St. George is said to be born in England and of English blood. Much 
abuse is also heaped on the heads of " those Heretickes and atheists 
who deprave the story of our blessed saynt George the Martyr by 
mingling with it some passages of special note occurring in the life of 
an Arian Bishop of that name, then George of Alexandria." He also 
quotes 1 that " bytwene Jherusalem and porte Japhe by a towne callyd 
Ramys is a chapell of Saynt George whiche is now desolate and un- 
couered and therein dwelle Crysten Crekys. And in the sayd chapel 
lyeth the body of saynt George but not the heed. And there lyen hys 
fader and moder and hys uncle not in the chapel but under the walls of 
the chapel," which charmingly expressed bit of information we need not 
necessarily believe. One cannot help feeling also that relations form 
quite an unnecessary part of a saint's economy, such radiant and isolated 
beings generally rising above mere family ties, and certainly family vaults ! 

1 From " Golden Legend." 
19 



St. George for Merrie England 

It is interesting to know what Sir Walter Raleigh had to say about 
St. George. In his " History of the World," after mentioning the old 
castle of St. George five miles from Ptolomaio, he continues, " and 
though for the credit of St. George killing the Dragon I leave every 
man to his own belief, yet I cannot but think that, if the Kings of 
England had not some probable record of that his memorable act among 
many others ; it was strange that the order full of honour which 
Edward III. founded, and which his successors royally have continued 
should have borne his name, seeing the world had not that scarcity of 
saints in those days as the English were driven to make such an erection 
upon a fable or person feigned." 

He then quotes Adrichomius first in Latin and then in English. 
" In this place which by the inhabitants is called Cappadocia, not far 
from Berytus, men say that the famous knight of Christ, St. George, 
did rescue the king's daughter from a huge dragon, and, having killed 
the beast, delivered the virgin to her parent. In memory of which 
deed a church was after built there. If this authority suffice not," Raleigh 
continues, " we may rather make the story allegorical, figuring the 
victory of Christ, than accept of George the Arian bishop mentioned by 
Marcellinus." It is interesting to see in one of the old maps of Adri- 
chomius, dated 1558, that a little engraving of St. George killing the 
dragon marks the reputed scene of the fight on the somewhat curious 
coast of Africa. 

Richard Johnstone's "Famous History of the Seven Champions 
of Christendome," a book already alluded to, has been the cause of an 
immense amount of confusion on the subject of St. George. It was 
written in 1608, and was largely taken from an old poem called "Sir 
Bevys of Hampton," which had been famous since the time of Chaucer. 

To parts of this story, current English versions of St. George's 
legend were evidently added, with the result that confusion was indeed 
worse confounded. We are told that St. George was born in Coventry, 
and was the son of Lord Albert, High Steward of that town. At the 
birth of this extraordinary child a " bloody crosse " was found on his 
right hand and upon his left leg a golden garter, and his subsequent 
adventures were as strange as his early decorations. His mother died 
at his birth, and not long afterwards he was stolen from careless servants 

20 



Writers on St. George 

by the enchantress Kalyb, " a bitter enemy to true nobility." For 
seven years she kept him prisoner, together with the other champions of 
Christendom, but after that time they escaped and scattered over the 
world, meeting with many and strange adventures. St. George went to 
Egypt, where a hermit told him about the dragon, and after killing 
it and undergoing still further adventures, including fights with the 
Saracens, he overcame Almedor the Blackamor king of Morocco, and, 
helped by the other champions, was set on the throne in his place. He 
finally married the Sultan of Egypt's daughter, and took her back to 
Coventry, where they had three sons and lived happily ever after. 

Such are the outlines of a book which coloured a greater part of 
the subsequent literature upon St. George. We may also quote Peter 
Heleyn, who remarks : " To this relation of his being born of English 
parentage our admir'd Spencer, although poetically, doth seeme to give 
some countenance," as certain well-known verses quoted in the follow- 
ing pages will show. This version lingered long among the country 
districts of England, which is perhaps only natural when our ignorant 
objections to a foreigner are remembered. How much more delightful 
to be able to claim our national Saint as English born! In 1757 
Bishop Pococke, writing from Highworth, tells how the peasants took 
him to " Dragon Hill," and showed him a bare spot where grass 
would never grow because of the dragon's blood shed in the famous 
fight with St. George. They also told him that the white horse cut 
out of the chalk on the hillside was the Saint's white charger. 

Denmark also claims to be the scene of the fight, and the story 
only differs in the respect that, instead of two sheep, two eggs were 
given daily to the dragon, which certainly represents him as the 
possessor of a more dainty and epicurean appetite than his Lybian 
fellow. When the supply of eggs began to give out, one egg and one 
human being were offered, but otherwise the story is the same. 

In the East, St. George is honoured by both Christian and Moslem, 
and from the earliest times the Greek Church has designated him " the 
Great Martyr," the "Victorious One," and "Trophy-bearer." He is 
the Patron Saint of Germany, Portugal, Barcelona, Genoa, Ferrara 
Armenia, Antioch, Constantinople, various parts of France, and of the 
Coptic Christians. "St. George for Holy Russia" is the battle-cry of 

21 



St. George for Merrie England 

the Czar, even as "St George for Merrie England '" spurred on our 
tired soldiers. He is the patron of nine military orders, and is generally 
considered the protector of all soldiers and sailors. We read, too, 
that the old French order of knighthood was given by the King with 
the words, " Je te fais chevalier, au nom de Dieu et de Monseigneur 
Saint George, pour la foi et justice loyalment gardes et l'Eglise. 
femmes, veuves, et orphelins defender." 

THE CULT IN ENGLAND 

Our first knowledge of St. George must have been brought from 
the East, by the Christian missionaries sent by Pope Gregory in 597 a.d. 
It has been stated that St. George visited England while serving under 
Diocletian, and that that is how St. George's Channel came by its name, 
but nothing has yet been found to prove the theory. 

In the testimony of Adamnan we get a very early mention of the 
Saint. He tells how Arculf was returning to his French bishopric in 
the year 701 a.d., when he was carried to Iona by adverse winds. 
There he was cared for by Adamnan, to whom he dictated his ad- 
ventures, and among them we find the following paragraph : — " St. 
Arcolfus also told us another reliable story about George the Martyr, 
which he indisputably taught in the city of Constantinople." 

From Arculf's travels it is most probable that Bede got his 
knowledge of St. George, and in consequence entered his name for 
April 23 in his calendar, and through him the knowledge would have 
spread among the monks. 

Then in Anglo-Saxon literature we have three references to the 
Saint. Once in a very early Ritual of the church of Durham, assign- 
able to the beginning of the ninth century ; once in a Martyrology 
belonging to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, which was given by 
Bishop Leofric to the Cathedral Church of Exeter, early in the 
eleventh century ; and once in the ancient Anglo-Saxon " Passion of 
St. George," written by Aelfric, Archbishop of York during 1023-1051, 
and belonging to the Cambridge University Library. Tradition also 
says that King Arthur chose St. George as the patron of the Knights 
of the Round Table. 

22 



"The Cult in England 

But although St. George was reverenced in England in Anglo- 
Saxon times, it was Richard I. who first brought his cult to England, 
and Edward III. who raised it to that great height of popularity which 
it held for so long. Even before that time, William of Malmesbury 
tells us that during the battle of Antioch, on June 28, 1087, when the 
Crusaders were hard pressed by the Saracens, the martyrs George and 
Demetrius were seen " hastily approaching from the mountainous 
districts hurling darts against the enemy but assisting the Franks." 
This greatly encouraged the soldiers, among whom were many Normans 
under Robert, son of William the Conqueror, and no doubt through 
them the popularity of St. George began to grow in England. 

The story runs, that Richard I., when fighting the Holy War 
in Palestine, also beheld the radiant figure of St. George in shining 
armour and a red cross, leading the armies on to victory. We know 
that Richard repaired the church of St. George at Lydda when in 
Palestine, and he certainly returned to England full of enthusiasm for 
the warrior Saint. In the reign of his nephew, Henry III., in 1220, 
St. George's name was passed into the calendar for April 23, and two 
years later it was decreed by the National Council of Oxford that the 
day should be kept as a festival of lesser rank. 

Edward I. had the red cross of St. George displayed upon his 
banner together with the arms of St. Edmund and St. Edward the 
Confessor, the former Patron Saint of England. Then came the reign 
of Edward III. The Order of the Garter was founded in 1330, "in 
the honour of God, our Lady, and St. George." It is interesting to 
know that the order originally included ladies, who were known as 
"dames de la confraternite de St. George." In 1347, at the siege of 
Calais, the King, moved by some sudden impulse, drew his sword, crying 
" Ha ! St. Edward ! Ha ! St. George ! " so inspiring his troops that 
they renewed their charge with fresh courage and triumphantly won the 
day, and after this time St. George may be said to have supplanted 
St. Edward as our national Saint. In 1348, a year later, the chapel of 
Windsor was dedicated to him. 

Then in 1386, in the reign of Richard II., during the invasion of 
Scotland, the King ordained that every man should " bere a signe of the 
armes of St. George, large, bothe before and behynde." The red cross 

2 3 



St. George for Merrie England 

was worked on a white cassock or coat which was worn over the armour, 
and it became " a seemly and magnificent thing to see the armies of the 
English so sparkle like the rising sun." 

In 1399 came another important change. At the Synod held at 
St. Paul's under Archbishop Arundel, the clergy presented a petition 
desiring that " the feast of St. George the Martyr, who is the spiritual 
patron of the soldiery of England, should be appointed to be solemnized 
throughout England and observed as a holiday, even as other nations 
observe the feast of their own patron." 

In the reign of Henry V., Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
ordained that St. George's Day should be kept as one of the feasts of 
greater rank, taking its place with Christmas Day and Easter, and 
that an entire holiday should be given to the people in its honour. 
"An English Chronicle " (Camden Soc.) gives us the following inter- 
esting account of the beginning of the battle of Agincourt in 14 1 5 : 
"And anon euery Englishe manne knelid doun and put a litille porcion 
of erthe in his mouth, and thanne saide the King with an highe vois 
' In the name of Almygte God and of St. George avaunt baner, 
and St. George this day thym helpe.' Thane the two bataillez mette 
togider and fouzten sore and long time, but almyzte God and St. 
George fouzten that day for us and graunted our King the victory." 

If we hunt through old state and civic records and corporation 
and church accounts, we find endless references to the cult of St. 
George. Masses, feasts, processions, tourneys, and races were held 
in honour of his day ; guilds bearing his name were established, and 
much money and thought were expended in preparing numberless 
St. Georges and Cleodolindas, chargers and dragons, to take their part 
in pageants and ceremonies. Chief among these were the celebrations 
at Windsor, which were held annually on St. George's Day. There 
was first a service at the chapel, at which all the Knights of the Garter 
were obliged to be present, then special tourneys, and lastly a great 
feast as a fitting end to the festivities. In William Gregory's 
" Chronicle of London " we get an interesting account of one of these 
feasts. In this instance it was deferred until the visit of the Emperor 
Sigismund, who was bringing with him as an offering to King 
Henry V. the so-called heart of St. George, a precious relic. It may 

24 



The Cult in England 

be mentioned in explanation, that a " sotellete " was a representation 
of some scene made in pastry and highly coloured. This is how the 
account runs : — 

" Ande thys yere com the Emperowre of Almayne in to London 
be-fore the Feste of Syn Georg. Ande the feste was deferryde 
unto hys commynge, & that was done solempny at the castylle 
of Wyndesore. . . Ande at the mete the kyng sate on the right 
syde of the emperour ande the Duke of Bedford sate on the lefte 
syde. . . Ande the fyrste sotellete of the fyrste cours was howe Oure 
Lady armyd Syn George and a aungylle doyng on his sporys. Ande 
the secunde sotellete was syn George rydynge and fyghtyng whythe 
a dragon whythe hys spere in hys honde. And the iij sotellete 
was a castelle & Syn Geors & the kynges doughter ledyng the lambe 
at the castelle gatys. And all thes sotelleteys were servyd be-fore 
the emperorure & the kyng & noo ferthe ande othyr lordys were 
servyd with sotelleteys aftyr hyr astate & degre." 

In Fabyan's Chronicle there is another allusion to a sotellete, this 
time prepared for the coronation feast of Henry VI. , when " kynge 
Henry beynge upon the age of ix yeres was solempnly crowned in 
Seynt Peters church of Westmynster . . . and after that solempnzacion 
the sayd church fynysshed, an honourable feest in the great halle of 
Westmynster was kepte. . . . Between the third course was a sotyltie 
of our Lady syttynge with her childe in her lappe and she holdyng a 
crowne in her hande. Seynt George and Seynt Denys knelynge on 
eyther syde presentyd to her kyng Henryes fygure berynge in hande 
this balade as foloweth : 

O blessyd Lady, Cristys moder dere 

And thou seynt George that called art her Knyght." 

William Gregory's Chronicle tells us that during this feast " at the 
fyrste course they came doune & wente by fore the kyngys champyon 
Syr Phylyppe Dymmoke that rode in the halle i-armyde clene as Syn 
Jorge. And he proclaymyd . . . that the kynge was ryghtefulle ayre to 
the crowne of Ingelonde ... & that he was redy for to defende hyt as 
hys knyghte & hys champyon." 

Then in the reign of Henry VII. we come across another proof of 

25 



St. George for Merrie England 

the great veneration in which St. George was held, Fabyan's Chronicle 
again being our authority. It tells how " upon Saynt Georges day the 
Kyng went in procession in Poules church where was shewn a legge of 
Saynt George closed in sylver whych was newly sent to the kyng." We 
can tell how this relic was prized by the King, for in his will of 1509 
we read : " Also we give and bequeathe . . . the preciouse relique of oon 
of the leggs of Saint George set in silver parcell gilte, which came to the 
hands of our broder and cousyn Loys of fFraunce the tyme that he wan 
and recover' d the citie of Millein, and was geven and sent to us by our 
cousyne the cardinal of Amboys legate of Fraunce : the which pece of 
the holie Crosse and leg of Saincte George we wol bee set upon the said 
aulter for the garnishing of the same upon all principal and solempne 
fests." 

The most important of the Guilds of St. George were those at 
Chichester, Leicester, Coventry, and Norwich. The earliest reference 
to the Chichester Guild is in an old public deed of 1394 — the seventeenth 
year of the reign of Richard II. The Leicester Guild was of later date, 
for we first hear of it in the early part of the fifteenth century. It was 
of considerable importance, and held its meetings in the Guild Hall and 
its services in the chapel of St. George, which occupied a corner of 
St. Martin's Church. Near the altar of the chapel was a raised platform 
on which stood a life-sized figure of St. George on horseback, clad in 
gorgeous armour. Once a year this figure was drawn round the town 
in the great procession called "The Ryding of the George," in which 
the Mayor and Corporation and all the townsfolk were obliged to take 
part. At one time, however, this custom must have fallen into abey- 
ance, for in an old deed of 1523 we read, " Whosoeur be the maister of 
Seynt Georgis Gylde shall cause the George to be rydyn according to 
the olde auncient costome y at ys to sey betwyx Sent Georgys day and 
Wytsondey." 

The Coventry Guild was celebrated for the part it played in the 
city pageants. We get the following reference to it in an old city 
Leet Book, which describes the pageant prepared in honour of Prince 
Edward upon his entry into the city in 1476 : — "Upon the Condite in 
the Crosse Chepyng was Seint George crowned & kynges doughty knelyng 
afore hym w l a lambe & the fader & the moder beyng in a toure a 

26 



The Cult in England 

boven, beholdyng Seint George savyng their dought r from the dragon. 
And the Condite rennyng wyne in iiij placez, and mynstralcy of Orgon- 
pleyinge & Seint George havyng this speeche under wryttyn : 

" O myghty God our all secour celestiall 
Which his Reyne has geven to dower 
To thi moder and to me George pteccion ppetual 
Hit to defende from enemies ffere & nere 
And as this mayden defended was here 
Bi thy grace from this Dragon devour 
So lorde ps've this noble prynce : & ev' be his sucour." 

We can get a vivid picture of the Norwich Guild from its ancient 
charter, which is still preserved. The following extracts show us what 
an important body it was, and how it dominated the life of the town. 

" In the worschepe of the Fader Sone & the Holy Goost and 
of owre Lady Seynt Mary and of the Glorious Martyr Seynt George 
and all Goddes Holy. There was begonne a Fraternite the yer of our 
Lorde mcccxxiii . . . qwerfore that seing diverse personys wel wylled 
& styrred to devocion of the glorious Martyr forseid, soghten & 
porsueden wyth grete labour and besynes to the King for grace 
to continew her devocion, & to have the name of Fraternite & 
Gujld of Brether'n & Sistern of Seynt George for hem and her 
successors evermor withoute ende to endurn. . . . 

" It is ordeined be the comon ascent of the Fraternite that all 
the Brethern and Susteren of the Fraternite shullen halwen the day of 
Seynt George yerely on what day so it befalle. 

"Also ther kepe her dyvine servise of both even-songes and messe 
in the cathedral forseide & other observaunces of the Fraternite 
ordeyned ... be assent of the bretheren yer schul ordeyne and pflx a 
day on which day alle bretheren & susteren schull kepen all 
her observaunces of her Divine Service aforn reherced & kepe her 
Riding & haven and kepen & weren her Clothing & holden her 
Fest. . . . 

" Also it is ordeyned that the alderman and maystres schul assigne 
a Day for asemble before the day of Seint George on qwiche day thoo 
xxiiii or the more part of hem schul chesen her George & a Man 

27 



St. George for Merrie 8 n gland 

to bere his swerd and be his kerver to for him. And a man to bere 
the baner of Seynt George and tweye Men to ber the wax or do 
bern with honest persones and to go with hem. . . . 

" And at that assemble the alderman and maystres schul make 
relacyon and knowyng at qwat place the bretheren and susteren schul 
gaddre for her Ryding, And at qwat place the bretheren and susteren 
schul felten her wax & in qwat place thei schul ete togedre . . . also 
it is ordeyned on the day of Seint George or elles another day assigned 
as it beforn reherced, that every Brother schal be in his levery for that 
yer on horsbak at certayn place be on ower & tyme assigned. . . . 

"Also qwan the reding is don that every brother and syster be redy 
at the place be forn assegned at setting and beryng her wax, ond offren 
it up at the heye awter of the churche forseid in worchepe of the 
Trinite, oure Lady & of the Glorious Martyr Seint George, ther to 
brenne. . . . 

" Also it is ordeined qwan the messe is seid & onded all the 
bretheren and susteren schul gon honestle to her mete to place assegned 
by the alderman & the maystres and then for to ete togedre every 
brother and suster paying for her Mete Wax & Minestral xd." 

In old books of church accounts we find numberless references to 
St. George. " Payd for brokyng down the walle where Seynt George 
standeth 6d." " For irrennys & wyer to the table of Seynt George 6d." 
" Paid for makinge St. Georgs candlestick 2s." " For dressing & har- 
nessing Seint George harness 6s. 8d." "Item to the preest of Seint 
Georg for hys pencion viij marcs." " Seent Georges fFest ij torches." 
" It. payed to iii men laboryng ii dayes in settyng up of ii yron barrs on 
Seynt Georges lofte ii s." " It. payed to Willm' Stayn for makeing 
up the mayden's ban' cloth viii d." These are scattered entries taken 
from the accounts of three different churches between the years 1479 
and 1554. The following entry from the churchwarden's accounts of 
St. Laurence, Reading, is also typical : — 

"1536. Charg' of Saynt George 

Ffirst payd for iii caffes-skynes & ii horce skynnes, iii s vi d. 
Paid for makeying the loft that Saynt George standeth upon vi d. 

28 



The Cult in England 

Payd for ii plonks for the same loft viii d. 

„ iii pesses of clowt lether ii s ii d. 

,, makeyng the yron that the hors resteth upon vi d. 
„ „ Saynt George's cote vii d. 

„ John Paynter for his labour xlv s. 

„ roses, bells, gyrdle, sword & dager iii s iiii d. 

„ setting on the bells & roses iii d. 

„ naylls necessary thereto x d ob. 

In the reign of Henry VIII., during the religious changes, it was 
decided that St. George's Day should still be kept. Fabyan's Chronicle 
tells us that on July 22nd, 1541, "there was a proclamation that no 
holy daye should be kept except our Ladyes dayes, the apostle 
Evangelists, St. George's and St. Mary Magdalen." Eleven years 
after, however, in Edward VI. 's reign, we read this ominous notice in 
the Grey Friars Chronicle : " Item also where it hathe bene of ane 
olde custome that sent George shude be kepte holy day thorrow alle 
England, the byshoppe of London commandyd that it shudde not be 
kepte, and no more it was not." 

Alas, the heyday of St. George's popularity was over, and after 
this we hear less and less of our national Saint. The gospel and epistle 
for St. George's Day were struck out of the Prayer Book in its revision 
in 1548, and even the red letter marking the 23rd April disappeared 
in the edition of James I. 

In 1547 we read this small but significant entry on the accounts 
of the churchwarden of St. Martin's, Leicester: "Sold to Henry 
Mayblay, the horse that the George rode on, I2d:' and in 1558 it 
was announced in Norwich " that there be neyther George nor Margett, 
but for pastime the Dragon to come & shew himself as in other years." 
This dragon was kept until 173 1, when the corporation became its 
owner on the dissolution of the company, and it appeared in the 
inventory as " item one new dragon commonly called Snap Dragon." 
It is now kept as a relic in the Town Museum. 

The Puritans issued edicts forbidding the image of St. George to 
be carried in the guild processions, although they graciously gave their 
sanction to the dragon, which continued for many years to be a 
favourite. In 16 10, in a procession on St. George's Day in Chester, 

29 



St. George for Merrie England 

we hear of " an artificial dragon, very lively to behold" as taking part 
in the proceedings. Again in some Chester accounts the following 
entry occurs : " For the annual painting of the city's four giants, one 
unicorn, one dromedary, one luce, one asse, one dragon, six hobby 
horses, and 16 naked boys. For painting the beasts and hobby 
horses 43s. od." 

From the time of the Protectorate the memory of St. George 
seems to have gradually faded from the minds of the people. Some- 
times an effort was made to revive the interest, as when George IV. 
commanded that the celebrations in honour of his birthday should be 
transferred to St. George's Day, but it was of no avail, and the cult 
fell into disuse. 

It is delightful, however, to find that even in these practical and 
prosaic times traces of old customs still linger in the country districts, 
reminding us of the old esteem and the old reverence. To this day 
boys on hobby horses parade some of the small Kentish villages on 
April 23, masquerading as St. George, and no doubt reaping a few 
pennies for their pains, and mumming plays are still given by the 
children of North-country villages on Christmas Eve, where, among a 
strange medley of characters, we again meet our old friends St. George, 
Sabra, the Sultan of Egypt, and the dragon. 

" O here comes I Saint George a man of Courage Bold 
And with my spear I winnd three crowns of gold. 
I slew the dragon, and brought him to the slaughter, 
And by that means I married Sabra, the beauteous 

King of Egypt's daughter." 

So run the opening lines of one of them, and throughout St. 
George plays the part of hero. These mumming plays are very 
old, and have chiefly been handed down traditionally among the 
country people. 

Until a few years ago an old ballad called " St. George for 
England," was sung at Windsor on April 23rd by the choir boys of 
St. George's Chapel, 1 and from the time of George I. until the reign of 
the late Queen Victoria, a golden rose decorated the royal dining-table 

1 Published by Novello, price i£d. 
30 



St. George in Literature 

on the same day, the rose being the emblem of the Saint. This emblem 
may perhaps be traced to the sacred rose-bush which grew in the 
midst of the ancient churches of St. George at Urmi, which were 
built by the Nestorian Christians in honour of their Patron Saint. The 
custom of wearing a rose on April 23rd is still followed in England 
and the colonies, although the fashion of wearing a blue coat has long 
fallen into disuse. The old play of "Ram Alley," and Freeman's 
Epigrams of 1614 both allude to this latter fashion. 

St. George is honoured in our national flag, which displays his 
red cross above the cross of St. Andrew, and his arms, the field argent, 
charged with a plain cross gules, are sometimes seen : " a bare of silver 
in token of clennes a crosse of goules significacion of the bloodde that 
Christe bleedde on ye crosse and for it muste nedes of reason by called 
a crosse," as John Hardyng, a chronicler of 1378, describes them. It 
is also interesting to know that there are 193 churches in England 
which are dedicated to the national saint. 1 



ST. GEORGE IN LITERATURE 

A more lasting monument to St. George than the survival of 
old customs is the place he has taken in our literature, both in old 
mystery and mumming plays, and in lines by Chaucer, Drayton, Shake- 
speare and Spenser, and in many other old books and ballads. 

The story of Una and the Red Cross Knight is only the story 
of St. George and Cleodolinda in one of its most fanciful and varied 
forms. What better description of St. George could we have than 
this : — 

" And on his brest a bloodie Crosse he bore, 
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord 
For whosse sweete sake that glorious badge he wore 
And dead as living, ever him ador'd : 



1 The Royal Society of St. George does much to keep green the memory of the 
Saint, and the Society of Antiquaries holds its anniversary on April 23rd. Also in 1907 the 
first annual service in celebration of St. George's Day was held on April 23rd, in the Chapel 
of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in St. Paul's Cathedral. 

31 



St. George for Merrie England 

Upon his shield the like was also scor'd 
For soveraine hope which in his help he had : 
Right faithful true he was in deede and word, 
But of his cheere did seem too solemne sad : 
Yet nothing did he dredd, but ever was ydrad." 

And further on in the same book, we find allusion to the English 
version of St. George's birth, where "Heavenly Contemplation" 
tells to St. George the story of his early days : — 

" For well I wote thou springst from ancient race 
Of Saxon kynges that have with mighty hand 
And many bloody battailes fought in face 
High reard their royall throne in Britans land 
And fanquisht them unable to withstand : 
From thence a faery thee unweeting reft 
There as thou slepts in tender swaddling band 
And her base Elfin brood there for thee left. 
Such men do chaungelings call so chaung'd by faeries theft. 

Thence she thee brought into this faery lond 

And in a heaped furrow did thee hyde ; 

Where thee a ploughman all unweeting 'fond 

As he his toylesome teme that way did guyde 

And brought thee up in ploughman's state to byde 

Where of Georgos he thee gave to name, 

Till prickt with courage and thy forces pryde 

To Faery court thou cam'st to seek for fame 

And prove thy puissant arms, as seemes thee best became. 

• •••••«• 

For thou emongst those saints whom thou doest see 
Shalt be a saint and thine own nation's frend 
And Patrone : thou St. George shalt called bee 
Saint George of mery England, the signe of victorie." 

Then in Shakespeare we find countless mention of St. George, 
in " Henry V." alone there being no fewer than five references. 
Before Harfleur, when addressing the troops, the King cries — 

"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips 
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot ; 

32 



St. George in Literature 

Follow your spirit, and upon the charge 

Cry * God for Harry, England and St. George.' " 

And in " Richard II.," where the King again is encouraging the soldiers — 

" Advance our standards, set upon our foes, 
Our ancient word of courage, fair St. George, 
Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons ! 
Upon them ! " 

In " King John " also we get an allusion, and this time to the practice 
of taking the legend of St. George as a sign for inns : 

" St. George who wingM the Dragon, and e'er since 
Sits on his horse back at mine hostess' door. 11 

In the seventeenth century various ballads were written, all of 
which took the story of St. George from Richard Johnstone's version, 
and introduced him as an English-born saint. Two of them tell that, 
while awaiting the dragon, the Princess was tied to a stake, a feature of 
the story that is occasionally recorded in old books. These ballads are 
too long to quote here, but several are reprinted in Percy's " Reliques 
of Ancient Poetry." There was also a Chap Book which ran through 
many editions in the eighteenth century. It too was based on Johnstone's 
book, but it added a little fresh matter on its own account, and after 
announcing at the beginning that St. George was descended from JEneas, 
it ended with the startling fact that he was buried at Windsor. Its 
pages were greatly enlivened with curious woodcuts, not the least 
amusing of which presented the Princess Cleodolinda parading in 
a hoop. 

There were also early plays and drolls in which St. George took a 
prominent part, and which formed part of the amusement in county 
houses on high days and holidays, even perhaps on long winter evenings 
when the time hung heavily. In one of the Paston Letters, the writer, 
lamenting that a man servant had left him, adds, " I have kept him 
thys iii yere to pleye Seynt Jage and Robin Hood and the Sheryff of 
Notyngham," so again we see what a familiar place the Saint held in 
the minds and memories of the people. 

But what can be said of his place in the minds and memories of 

33 c 



St. George for Merrie England 

the people of to-day ? What have we, when all is said and done, 
in the legend of St. George ? Surely a noble allegory which runs 
through the history and literature of all civilised countries, the victory 
of the powers of light over the powers of darkness. 

Turn to the East, — in Egypt Horus kills the crocodile, in Greece 
Perseus slays the monster, and Belerophon overcomes the Chimera. 
Look to the West, — Siegfried, Sigurd, and Beowulf, all are heroes who 
fight with and finally overcome the most deadly monsters. On every 
hand the old national myths and legends, songs and sagas, tell us the 
same story. Change the names, vary the country, alter the circum- 
stances, and yet the same dominating idea remains common to them 
all, binding them together as unconscious symbols of the growth and 
beliefs of many peoples. Then when the tide of Christianity swept 
over East and West- alike, St. George with his red cross became the 
symbol of the power of Christ, battling with and overcoming the 
dragon or powers of sin, darkness, and unbelief. It is the same old 
story Christianised — the story of shadows fleeing before the light. 

Pope Gelasius said of St. George that he was one of those saints 
whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are 
known only to God, and although St. George may be only a name to 
us, he has left us in his legend the finest symbol that a nation can call 
her own. 



34 



APPENDIX 

Service far St. George's Day as used in England before the Reformation 
[Translated from the Latin of the Sarum Missal) 

Collect. O God, who causest us to rejoice in the good deeds and intercession 
of St. George Thy Martyr, mercifully grant that by the gift of Thy grace we 
may obtain the benefits we ask of him ; through . . . 

Secret. We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the wonted Sacrifice on the death 
of Thy Martyr St. George, entreating of Thy mercy that through these holy 
Mysteries we may in Thy victory overcome the temptations of the Old Enemy, 
and of Thy bounty obtain an everlasting recompense of reward ; through . . . 

P. Comm. We humbly pray Thee, Almighty Father, that we who are 
satisfied with the sweetness of the heavenly Table may at the intercession of 
Thy Martyr St. George also be partakers of His resurrection by whose death we 
are redeemed ; through . . . 



From the Liturgy called " Typicon " formerly used in the Greek churches 

O thou who art the Ransomer of the captives, the Succour of the needy, 
the Physician of the sick, the Defender of Princes, thou glorious Martyr George 
named Tropceophorus, call upon Christ to have mercy upon us. 



35 



ST. GEORGE IN ART 

The following illustrations are the best testimony of how the legend of 
St. George has been treated in art. They show with what naive and childlike 
pleasure the early artists carved and painted the story, and how its charm has 
been equally felt by some of the romantic painters of our own times. 

As is only natural, the legend is more frequently met with in art in the 
countries and towns which honoured St. George as their patron at a time when 
their own art was vigorous. German artists for this reason have more often 
celebrated him than others, while in England Keyser's list of mural decorations 
includes over sixty frescoes and panels of St. George which have escaped the 
ravages of time and whitewash. This list was made, however, twenty years 
ago. There are also numerous other early representations in many mediums, 
which testify to the popularity of the cult in Pre-Reformation times. In Italian 
art St George is usually represented as beardless, and is often accompanied by 
St. Sebastian ; while in German art he frequently has a beard and is often 
painted with St. Florian. In Gothic and French art the Saint is not so often 
met with, but when depicted in a group with other saints these are generally 
St. Maurice and St. Victor. In England St. Christopher is generally the com- 
panion saint, or sometimes St. Margaret, who also has adventures with a dragon. 
This is why the two saints were often represented together in processions, whereby 
no doubt an economy in dragons was effected, one doing duty for both. In 
English art St. George often wears the Garter, or else the British Lion is intro- 
duced into the scene. In Venice St. George is usually associated with St. 
Tryphonius, and here he must not be confused with St. Theodore and his 
crocodile. 

When St. George is represented as fighting the dragon, but without the 
Princess and her parents, and the familiar background of city walls, the repre- 
sentation will probably be symbolic, and will be meant to celebrate the victory of 
Righteousness and Christianity over the powers of sin and unbelief. The dragon 
will be the dragon of the Apocalypse, as we read of it in the twelfth chapter : 
" And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil 
and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world." This symbolic representation is 
met with even as early as the VI. century. But when the King, Queen, and 
Princess are introduced, then we have the actual story of St. George. The lamb 

36 



St. George in Art 



that usually accompanies the Princess is a symbol of innocence and purity, and 
the white horse which St. George rides has the same symbolic meaning. In 
Carpaccio's fine picture the horse is dark brown, but this is the only exception 
I know. There also is an unusual version of the story by the Master of the 
Calvarienberg, in which St. George has dismounted to kill the dragon, while the 
Princess holds the reins of the very large horse, who looks with genuine interest 
on the proceedings. 

In old pictures and carvings St. George is almost always represented in the 
armour of the period in which the artist lived, and only occasionally do we find 
him in the classical garb of a Roman tribune ; the King and Queen are generally 
relegated to a place on the city walls. 

Through the legend in art we often catch a glimpse of the legend in history, 
as the last illustrations in the book will show. They prove to us how sovereigns, 
lords, and commoners loved to place themselves under St. George's patronage, 
to go down to posterity under his protection. 

The illustrations can now speak for themselves. They will show how 
St. George and his legend has been an inspiration to many generations of artists. 
They will tell his story, some with delicious quaintness and sly humour, some with 
the dignity and the gravity that are worthy of its splendid romance. 



37 



My thanks are due to the authorities at South Kensington for their 
kindness and attention ; to Mrs. E. Armitage for the loan of an illus- 
tration from her book " A Key to English Antiquities," which here 
appears on the title-page; to Messrs. Alinari [Florence), Mr. Hanfstaengl, 
and Mr. F. Hollyer for their kind permission to reproduce their photo- 
graphs ; and lastly to all whose courteous and kindly help has made my 
work a pleasure. 



38 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



ST. GEORGE 



St. George. French, XV. century 



St. George. Pisanello 

St. George. Donatello 

St. George. German, early X V. century 

St. George. Mantegna 

St. George. Diirer 

St. George. Bavarian school, early XVI. century (?) 



Frontispiece 

PAGE 

43 
45 
47 
49 
5i 
53 



THE LEGEND 

St. George armed by angels and knighted by the Virgin. Spanish, XV. century . 57 

The country people appeal to the King. Rossetti . . . . -59 

Offerings made to appease the dragon. Spanish, XV. century . . .61 
The drawing of lots. Rossetti ........ 63 

The drawing of lots. Sir E. Burne-Jones . . . . . -65 

The Princess's departure as sacrifice to the dragon. Rossetti . . . 67 

Three scenes from the life of St. George. English, late XIV. century . . .69 

Two scenes from the life of St. George. Frettch, XV. century . . .71 

The fight with the dragon. German, XIV. century . . . . -73 

„ „ Basle Cathedral, late XIV. century . . -75 

„ „ George and Martin of Clussenburk . . -77 

„ „ Jacopo Bellini . - ■ ■ • -79 

„ „ Crevelli . • • ■ ■ • .81 

„ „ Quirico da Murano (?) . . . • -83 

„ „ Master of the Calvarietiberg . . . -85 

„ „ Liibeck school, early XV. century . . . 87 

„ „ Sienese school, XV. century . . . .89 

„ „ Michel Colomb . . . . . 91 

„ „ Andrea delta Robbia . . . ■ -93 

„ „ Bernt Notke and Hindrich Wylsynck . . -95 
„ „ Francia ....... 97 

39 



List of Illustrations 



The fight with the dragon. 



Carpaccio 

„ „ „ Raphael 

„ „ „ Tintoretto 

Rossetti 

„ „ „ Sir E. Burne-Jones 

After the fight. Pisanello . 
St. George ties the Princess's girdle round the dragon. Spanish, XV. 
The return of St. George and the Princess. Sir E. Burne-Jones 
St. George cuts off the dragon's head. Carpaccio 
St. George baptizes the King, Queen, and Princess. 



century 



Altichieri and Avanzo 
Spanish, XV. century 
Carpaccio 
Rossetti . 



» » >> >> 

Marriage festivities of St. George and the Princess, 
St. George fights the Moors. Spanish, XV. century 
St. George drinks the poisoned cup. Spanish, XV. century 
St. George exorcises the demon inhabiting the idol of Apollo. Herlen 
The beheading of St. George. Altichieri and Avanzo . 
The Vision of St. George before Antioch. Norman, early XII. century 



PAGE 

99 

IOI 

103 
105 
107 
109 
in 
113 
ii5 
117 
119 
121 
123 
125 
127 
129 

131 
133 



ST. GEORGE IN A HISTORIC AND PERSONAL 

CONNECTION 

St. George as patron of the Duke of Bedford. Bedford Missal, 1424- 1430 . . 137 

St. George as patron of Charles the Bold. Gerad Loyet, 1471 .... 139 

The Sovereigns of Europe worshipping St. George. French, circa 1490 . . 141 

St. George as patron of the Malines Guild of Archers. Flemish, 1495 . . . 143 

St. George as patron of Henry VII., Elizabeth of York, and family. Engraving after 

Flemish (?) altar-piece, circa 1508 . . . . . . 145 

Lucas Paumgartner as St. George. Diirer ...... 147 

St. George as patron of an unknown donor. Flemish, circa 15 10 . . . 149 

Procession of the Guild of St. Gudula, Brussels. Van Alsloot . . . 151 

Charles I. and Henrietta Maria as St. George and the Princess. Rubens . 1 53 
The children of the Duke of Bedford as St. George, the Princess, and attendants. 

Sir J. Reynolds . . . . . . . . 155 

The line engraving on the title-page is from a Norman tombstone at Conisborough. 



40 



ST. GEORGE 



D 



" The blessyd George was hygh in despysing /owe thynges, and 
therfore he haa verdeur in hym se/f, be was attemperate by 
dyscressyon and therfore he had wyn of gladnesse, and ivy thin 
he was playne of humylite, and therby put lie forth whete of 
good werke" — Golden Legend. 




Hanfstaengl, plinto. 

ST. GEORGE 

Pisanello (circa 1385-1455). I'art of a picture in 
the National Gallery. 

43 




Alinari, photo. 



ST. GEORGE 

Donatello (1386-1466). Bargello, Florence. 

45 




Hi <l '.V, /'koto. 



ST. GEORGE 

German School. Early XV. century. National Museum, Nuremberg. 

47 




A/i'nari, /•koto. 

ST. GEORGE 

Mantegna (1431-1506). Accademia, Venice. 
49 




ST. GEORGE 

Durer (1471-1528). From the engraving. 



51 




'I'eu/rl, photo. 

ST. GEORGE 
Bavarian School. Early XVI. century (?). Frauen Kirche, Munich. 

53 



THE LEGEND 




ST. GEORQE ARMED BY ANGELS AND KNIGHTED BY THE VIRGIN 
From a Spanish altar-piece. XV. century. South Kensington Museum. 



57 




59 




OFFERINGS MADE TO APPEASE TDK DRAGON 
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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 
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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 

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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 
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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 

Bernt Notke and Hindi ich Wylsynck (Liibeck School, 1480). Historical Museum, Stockholm. 

This group was commissioned by the Swedes as a thank-offering after a successful battle against the Danes 
in 1471. The victory was attributed to the intervention of St. George when called upon by the Swedes. 
' The breast of the figure contains relics which were presented by the Pope ivhen the group was 
completed. 



95 




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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 
Francia (1450-1517). Corsini Gallery, Rome. 

97 




99 




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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 

Raphael (1483 -1520!. Hermitage Gallery, St. Petersburg. 

Presented to Henry VII. by the Duke of Urbino on the occasion of his being made a Knight of the 

Garter. Notice the Garter worn by St. George. 

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THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON 
Tintoretto (1512-1594). National Gallery. 
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ST. GEORGE TIES THE PRINCESS'S GIRDLE ROUND 

THE DRAGON 

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ST. GEORGE BAPTIZES THE KING, QUEEN, AND PRINCESS 

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ST. GEORGE FIGHTS THE MOORS 
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aT. GEORGE DRINKS THE POISONED CUP 

1 1 11 the foreground the beheading of St. George). 
From a Spanish altar-piece. XV. century. South Kensington Museum. 

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ST. GEORGE EXORCISES THE DEMON INHABITING 

THE IDOL OF APOLLO 
F. Herlen. Last half of XV. century. Town Museum, Nordlingen. 



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THE BEHEADING OF ST. GEORGE 

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133 



ST. GEORGE IN A HISTORIC AND PERSONAL 

CONNECTION 




ST. GEORGE AS PATRON OF THE DUKE OF BEDFORD 
From the Bedford Missal (1424-1430). 

St. George here wears the Garter on his left leg, and the long blue mantle of the Order 
of the Garter, with its cords, tassels, and badge. The Duke 0/ Bedford [brother 
of Henry V. and a Knight of the Garter) is mentioned on p. 25 as a/tending a 
feast of St. George at Windsor. In Henry \'l. [Part I. Act i. scene 1) Shake- 
speare makes him say — 

" Farewell, my masters; lo my task will I ; 
Bonfires in France forthwith I am t<> make, 
To keep our great St. George's feast withal." 

137 Q 




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ST. GEORGE AS I'ATRON OF CHARLES THE BOLD 

Genul Loyet of Bruges (1471I. 

Chen by Charles to the Church of St. /agues, Lii'ge, "in expiation of the horrors 
committed in the sack of this town" {in 1468 1. His stall plate, as a Knight 
of tin (Jailer, is still to be seen in the Chapel of St. George, Windsor. 

139 




THE SOVEREIGNS OF EUROPE WORSHIPPING 
ST. GEORGE 

From a French miniature, circi 1490. 

The figure to the rig/it is Henry VII., King oj England, The one 
hehimi him is Ferdinand, King In. In the centre ■ 

the Emperor Frederic III., and behind him are Maximilian , 
King of the Romans, and further /,< the right I 'hi lip. Arch- 
duke of Austria and I hike <>f Burgundy. In the foreground 
to the left kneels Charles I' 1 1 1., King of France. 

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